The analysts and number-crunchers are hard at work at the Ministry of Transport trying to figure out what’s wrong with NZ’s regional air services. The answer isn’t too hard to find.
It begins with the economic revolution of the 1980s and the Lange Labour Government. The deregulation of air services launched by his transport minister Richard Prebble brought gains on the main trunk routes (Auckland-Wellington-Christchurch and possibly Dunedin).
Ansett New Zealand, backed by the empires of News Corporation and TNT, vastly improved those services with upper-class services and frequent flier lounges. In those heady days Ansett NZ’s “Chairman’s” lounges were packed with ministers, MPs and captains of industry. All at great cost, but Ansett was looking to integrate its Australian and NZ networks, which proved to be a bridge too far.
There was a similar and less-appreciated revolution under way in regional NZ. Till then, airports were joint ventures between the local authority and the Crown, administered by the Ministry of Transport. All were meant to be public utilities, offering a modicum of comfort for passengers, at reasonable cost to the airlines (in effect National Airways Corporation, then Air NZ from 1978). Continue reading “The troubles with regional air services hark back to reforms which fuelled rising charges”